Thais eye winning starts
Men, women's teams kick off gold quests
The Thai men's and women's football teams are confident of kicking off their campaigns to retain the SEA Games titles on winning notes in Kuala Lumpur today.
The men's team, who are chasing their third successive crown, face Indonesia in Group B, while the women's side take on Myanmar in a single-league, round-robin tournament. Both matches kick off at 3pm Bangkok time.
For the first time at the biennial Games, the men's football event is for U22 players after being a U23 competition since 2001.
The Thai women won the title in 2013 but there was no women's football at the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
In the men's event, Thailand coach Worrawoot Srimakha is looking forward to a victory over Indonesia in his team's first match of the Kuala Lumpur Games.
Worrawoot and his staff yesterday focused on making the players master the tactics devised for today's Group B opener.
Worrawoot said: "The most important thing is to earn points from the first game.
"While we were training today, it rained and we don't know whether it will come down again during the match. But the pitch here is almost the same as the grounds in Thailand because the grass has small blades.
"I have already made up my mind on the starting line-up, but we may be forced to make a change or two. We need to check on some players before the match. [Captain] Chenrop Samphaodi has an injury which is slightly painful."
Worrawoot said the goalless draw against Indonesia during the AFC U23 Championship qualifying round in Bangkok last month could not be used to evaluate the true potential of the rivals.
"It was like we did not play each other at all. That match was played under a heavy rain and the pitch was flooded," he said.
"It is different now. The players are looking forward to the first game and there are many things that we want to prove.
"We are confident that if tomorrow's [today's] match is played under good weather and the pitch is in a good condition, we are capable of beating the Indonesians.
"We have practised a set of different tactics and it would all depend on how things go during the match.
"In this SEA Games, many Asean teams are good. Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam are all strong teams and judging from their performances in the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers, they have improved a great deal.
"I think in the end it will depend on the strikers' ability to convert chances into goals and defenders ability to handle pressure," said Worrawoot.
Thailand U-22 team manager Watanya Wongopasi said: "We have come with the mission of winning the gold medal, nothing less. We've made detailed preparations prior to arriving in Kuala Lumpur."
The other teams in Group B are Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia and Timor Leste.
Group A, which kicked off yesterday, features Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Laos and Brunei.
The top two teams of each group advance to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Thailand women's team coach Spencer Prior said: "We have prepared the team for many months for this tournament and I believe that every player is fit and ready for the competition.
"Every player is ready for the first game with Myanmar and I am confident that the team will pick up three points. We are here to win the gold medal."
Team manager Nualphan Lamsam said: "It will be not an easy game against Myanmar who trained in Japan like our team. Although we have beaten them in the past, we cannot underestimate them at all."